The Other Side of 50

Here’s looking at you, Solano

By From page OSF5 | April 10, 2014

FAIRFIELD — It’s a celebration of seniors – saluting their strengths and aiming to counter stereotypes about them.

The photography contest sponsored by the Senior Coalition of Solano County wants to promote images of active older adults and end notions that they’re inactive and disengaged.

Rochelle Sherlock, a consultant with the coalition, said the civic engagement older Americans display on city councils, school boards and in county government should help end the stereotype of inactive seniors with few interests beyond television and reading.

Older adults sometimes reinforce one stereotype by referring to any forgotten fact as a “senior moment,” Sherlock said.

She recalls the point made at a forum about why older Americans may sometimes take a little longer to offer an idea.

“You have far more information and data in that brain,” Sherlock recalled it was said of seniors.

Amateur, professional and a youth category of 18 and younger are the three divisions of entries in the photo contest accepting submissions until April 28. An awards ceremony will take place May 22 at the Joseph A. Nelson Community Center in Suisun City. The event includes an inter-generational category to show older adults with younger generations.

Photographs should depict at least one adult 60 years of age or older. The photographer and older adult shown in the photo have to be Solano County residents.

Go to www.SolanoCounty.com/SCSC_PhotoContest for the website with additional details about the photo contest.

The stereotypes the contest seeks to counter have a kind of covert status.

“Like all stereotypes,” Sherlock said, “they’re often unconscious.”

They can range from the intended compliment – Gee, you look good for your age – to what Sherlock witnessed in a grocery store. A young adult nearly knocked over an elderly person moving with a walker. For the youth, the senior didn’t seem to exist – an extreme example of how older Americans are often overlooked, said the consultant to the senior coalition.

The idea continues in some quarters that youth is the only group worth considering, Sherlock said.

People should be seen for their individuality rather than be defined by such grouping as age or disability, she said.

Sherlock spoke about how some older adults deal with the new communication technologies that can seem second nature to younger Americans.

“When they were growing up, they didn’t have access to any of this,” she said of cellphones and computers.

Email is widely used by people of all ages, but seniors overall participate in such electronic communication less often, Sherlock said. At the mini medical school forums that take place in Solano County, she collected email addresses for distribution lists used to inform people about other events. About 10 to 15 percent of older adults didn’t have email and that’s unfortunate, Sherlock said.

“It’s an access issue,” she said.

Email is cheap, Sherlock said, and – for groups like the senior coalition without a big budget – a good way to communicate.

Data from the Pew Research Center found that America’s seniors have historically been late adopters to the world of technology, but their movement into digital life continues to deepen.

The data found two different groups of older adults, one more educated, affluent and young with substantial technology assets and a second group of less-affluent, older adults largely disconnected from digital tools.

Sherlock noted that communication counts more than the way it’s sent and seniors have much to contribute in conversation and many other parts of modern life.

Older adults, Sherlock said, tend to be problem-solvers and happier, less impulsive and less aggressive than younger Americans.

They share with everyone else passages in their lives – often different from the ones younger people are experiencing, but no less important.

“This is a journey for each of us,” said Sherlock.

The photo contest aims to chronicle the journeys of older adults.

Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or [email protected]

Ryan McCarthy


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